Pilates Includes Everything the Body Needs Including Strength Building Exercise
Strength training is one of the three types of exercise that are critical for our health according to fitness research. The other two are cardiovascular conditioning – better known as aerobics – and stretching.
The Importance of Muscle
Strength training builds muscle tissue which is critically important for two reasons. First, starting at about the age of 30, men and women begin to lose muscle tissue all over the body. Muscle strength creates balance and the combination of strength and balance is our best defense against injury. Muscle also surrounds and protects our joints. If we don’t maintain this joint protection we become highly susceptible to joint injuries particularly in the back, knees, shoulders, and neck.
No Other Exercise Does This
The second important reason for strength training is that the other two kinds of exercise – cardio and stretching – do not build muscle tissue. Also known as weight or resistance training, strength training is any exercise that overloads or fatigues muscles using weight or resistance of any kind. This overload actually tears the muscle at the cellular level, not to be confused with injuries at the gross level such as a muscle tear, pull (strain), or ligament damage (sprain) – ligaments being the harder tissue that connects muscle to bone.
The Mystery of Muscle
You would think that we know exactly what’s going on in the muscle-building process, and we do know quite a bit, but mysteries remain! It’s a complicated process involving ‘micro-tears’ to certain muscle cells which trigger other cells to come to the rescue and repair them if given a period of rest and recovery, typically about 24 hours. If no rest is allowed these micro-tears work against muscle growth and result in less strength.
In the muscle repair process certain chemicals are stimulated such as lactic acid which is the cause of the soreness we feel the next day after a hard workout. Growth hormones and testosterone are also involved. These substances can be increased by ingestion or injection to enhance the muscle growth process.
This process is fueled by oxygen. Increased breathing during exercise increases the muscle building process. This is one of the reasons that aerobic exercise is so important, because it increases our capacity to take in and use oxygen.
How To Strength Train
Strength training can be accomplished in different ways from simple push-ups to complicated compound free-weight training. It can be done in a gym, a class, or at home. Equipment such as weights and bands are popular ‘props’. The simplest and most convenient way is to use the weight of your own body which is one of the benefits of the Pilates mat routine – it’s strength training that you can do anywhere and anytime without equipment or a gym. And it can be the most rigorous workout you’ve ever experienced as for instance when you add HIIT to your Pilates workout.
The Latest Research
Recent research reveals some surprising findings. For instance, men and women respond similarly to strength training – the only difference is in the levels of different hormones in our bodies. Research also shows that the process of natural muscle loss accelerates with age but can be counteracted with a regular regimen of strength training. And most surprising of all is the effect of strength training on our joints – not only does muscle tissue protect our joints from injury and disease such as arthritis, but it also provides relief from joint pain as effective as medication.
This is just the beginning of the benefits of strength training! It decreases the risk of osteoporosis by increasing bone density. It lowers blood pressure, increases energy, and elevates our mood. Strength training fights free radicals which are the major cause of aging. And it improves our appearance by developing lean and taut muscles and skin.
Strength training not only burns calories, but regular exercise of any kind actually increases our metabolism and burns more calories. Muscle burns more calories than fat tissue. Muscle tissue burns calories even when we sleep. Thus the more muscle tissue we have the more calories we burn. Weight training is absolutely essential to any weight management program.
The best news of all is that anyone at any age can do strength training. And one of the few exercise methods that combines all three of the exercises that your body needs into one quick and efficient workout is Pilates mat exercise. One of the ways in which Pilates stands out from other strength training methods is that it primarily uses eccentric contraction which has so many benefits over the usual way of building muscle using concentric contraction. So start with my free beginners lessons today by signing up in the box at the right. If you’re an advanced Pilates student or teacher, push yourself as never before with my High Intensity Pilates!
How To Start Safely
A beginner should start strength training two days a week and move up to three, leaving at least one day for rest in between each training session. Breathe as full and as often as possible, exhaling on the exertion. Warm ups should always be performed before and stretching after each training session. Correct form and proper technique are important to prevent injury.
Try my Pilates Beginner lessons free by signing up in the box at the right. You’ll begin to feel stronger and more balanced within just a couple days.